Little Learners Preschool Upstairs in Building Housing Tiny Tots Daycare
After renovations and other preparations, Little Learners Preschool opened this fall upstairs in the building which houses Tiny Tots Daycare in Auburn’s Courthouse Square area.
Deb Reiman, teacher/director, has 37 children in two groups, morning and afternoon. Morning children attend Mondays-Thursdays 8-11 a.m. Afternoon children attend noon-3 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays.
Reiman has about 15 years of child care and preschool experience.
When her husband, Kevin, became guidance counselor at Auburn Public Schools in 1997, Reiman started a licensed home childcare which she operated for 10 years as the Reimans raised their four children. Kevin Reiman became superintendent of Auburn Public Schools in July 2011.
During Reiman’s daycare years, she was a TEACH early childhood Nebraska scholarship recipient. That enabled her to work towards an endorsement in early childhood education. Reiman received that endorsement from Peru State College in 2010.
In 2006, Reiman became teacher/director at Creative Corner Preschool, at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Auburn.
Need For Larger Facility
Reiman said that when she started at Creative Corner, children ages 3-5 years had the opportunity to attend school five hours weekly. Total enrollment was 18 children. Currently, children ages 3-5 years are offered the opportunity to attend school 12-14 hours weekly.
“As our numbers have grown, so have our opportunities, and the need for a larger, more conducive facility,”
She said that she has worked with Lynsey Ligouri of Tiny Tots Daycare since she was a high school student doing work release hours at her childcare facility.
“Lynsey and I share a passion for early childhood. We have always shared a vision for our community, to offer parents a quality early childhood experience from birth to school age. When Lynsey opened Tiny Tots Daycare a few years ago, it was always our dream to renovate the upstairs of the building to make a preschool. I was very fortunate to have had the support from St. Paul Lutheran Church, the home of Creative Corner. They realized that a new facility with room to set up our environment in the way it needs to be and the convenience for parents of preschoolers to have preschool located right upstairs from a childcare was the best fit for our community,” Reiman said.
Renovations Transformed Upstairs Into Preschool
Renovations took place this summer, she said.
“We were completely amazed by the transformation that Brian Lavigne and his employees did to what were once two apartments. The preschool is bright, open and inviting and just so functional!,” Reiman said.
“I have been amazed at the difference the space makes in our learning. We have enough room to have a block center, dramatic play, library, puzzle center, math center, technology center, science center, doll center, sensory center, literacy center and art center set up at all times. In addition to the centers, I have a separate snack kitchen, circle time room, office, tons of storage, two bathrooms, a handwashing sink and an entryway/hallway. I am in preschool heaven!,” Reiman said.
Challenges in Opening Facility
Licensing was the biggest challenge in opening the preschool, she said.
There was a lot of paperwork and patience in working with officials of Health and Human Services (HHS), Nebraska Department of Education and the fire marshal. It was time-consuming, Reiman said.
Little Learners Preschool follows all Rule 11 guidelines and is regulated by the Department or Education, she said.
Reiman said that several of her students are 5 years of age because their parents chose to wait another year to send them to kindergarten. Because Department of Education officials state that if a child is age eligible to attend kindergarten, they cannot be in a Rule 11 early childhood program. She had to seek a license through HHS to allow her to serve the 5-year-olds.
The children 3 and 4 years of age were allowed to start school in September. It was not until mid-October that HHS officials completed their inspections which allowed the 5-year-olds to attend.
“I am so thankful to have all of my kids here at last!,” Reiman said.
Various Activities In First Weeks of Preschool
Little Learners Preschool children have participated in various activities over the first few weeks
They visited the Auburn fire station. Auburn volunteer firefighters showed the children fire trucks, ambulance and equipment. At school the children practiced a fire drill; learned to stop, drop and roll and crawl low to stay away from smoke.
The children learned about apples and will learn about pumpkins. A trip is planned to a pumpkin patch.
The preschoolers have sharing time the last day of the week. The children learn about asking questions and learn to speak so our friends can hear us. Sharing can be difficult for young children but does a lot to build confidence and self-esteem, Reiman said.
Early Childhood Program Presented Great Opportunity
She said that the addition of an early childhood program in the Auburn Public Schools presented a great opportunity.
“As part of the early childhood grant that Auburn received they were able to offer partnerships to local early childhood programs that already existed. Because I have an early childhood degree and am able to follow all Rule 11 guidelines, I was offered a partnership,” Reiman said.
The benefits for her private preschool include: support from a paraeducator in her afternoon session, grant session, she is able to assess her students using Teaching Strategies Gold for assessment, use the Creative Curriculum for Early Childhood and be involved in training opportunities offered to Auburn Public Schools educators.
“These are things I would have never been able to afford being a private preschool. All of them increase the quality of education that the young children in our community receive,” Reiman said.
She also has received a minimal amount of grant funding for supplies and equipment for Little Learners Preschool.
There are benefits to the school district, Reiman said.
She works closely with Samantha Wehenkel, Auburn Public Schools preschool teacher. Reiman and Wehenkel share a paraeducator each day, Leah Wehenkel. Students from the two classrooms gather together to play at the early childhood playground at Calvert Elementary School.
Reiman said that after the three-year grant period ends, Auburn Public Schools will receive state aid for each 4-year-old child she has at Little Learners.
After she student taught in Kaiapoi, New Zealand, Reiman received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, in 1994. She taught elementary school in Weeping Water for three years where she met her husband, who was teaching science there. The Reimans have four children: Kade, 13 years; Allyson, 12 years; Madison, 10 years and Weston, 8 years.
Alexis Comstock is an early education major at Peru State College. She works with the morning class each day. An Auburn High School graduate, she will begin her student teaching in the spring at Johnson-Brock Public Schools.
Ariel Kumpula is a sophomore at Peru State College. She has volunteered weekly since she moved to Peru from Chicago.
Leah Whence is a paraeducator for Auburn Public Schools. She is a graduate of Auburn High School and Doane College. She works at Calvert Elementary School preschool each morning and at Little Learners each afternoon.
The Little Learners Preschool website is www.littlelearnerspreschool.com. “Like” Little Learners is also available on Facebook.